US-Cuban Warming Foretells Cross-Strait Reconciliation
China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 29, 2014
Executive Summary: US policy towards Cuba has been frozen for half a century. The US has finally realized this was a blind alley. What it gained was far outweighed by what it lost -- the opportunity for reconciliation. By the same token, blind hostility and confrontation between the two sides of the Strait, will neither resolve differences nor facilitate communications. America and Cuba have put the past behind them. They can now work together to seek a mutually beneficial future. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait should be able to do the same. They should be able to exercise wisdom, see the Big Picture, and create new opportunities for peace and prosperity.
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Following his mid-term election defeat, many assumed that US President Barack Obama had become a lame duck. Who knew that Obama would unexpectedly display a diplomatic style all his own and announce the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba? With powerful determination, he shattered a 53 year old diplomatic impasse. He helped establish a new relationship between the US and Cuba. His vision and boldness is something both sides of the Taiwan Strait should learn from.
When Obama made the announcement on December 17, he shocked the international community. He did more than restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. He also reached other agreements, such as intelligence personnel prisoner exchanges. Obama declared that "After all, these 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach." The Commerce Department also issued a statement, saying that the US will engage in additional economic and commercial exchanges, in an effort to encourage Cuban reform.
Former US President Jimmy Carter tried to improve relations with Cuba. But his efforts fell through. Obama eased travel restrictions during his first term. His recent announcement shocked the world. But in fact, the two sides were in secret negotiations over the past 18 months. The outside world simply hadn't gotten wind of them. US and Cuban leaders both want the restoration of diplomatic relations. Canada and the Franciscans also contributed. During memorial services for former South African President Nelson Mandela late last year, Obama met with Cuban leader Raul Castro. The two men shook hands. This was seen as an ice-breaking gesture. But what people did not realize was that the two sides were already secretly negotiating restored relations.
The confrontation between the US and Cuba was the last stalemate of the Cold War. On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista, and became the leader of Cuba. The United States intitially intended to grant diplomatic recognition. But cooperation between Castro and the Soviet Union motivated the US break off diplomatic relations with Cuba. On January 3, 1961, the Central Intelligence Agency recruited 1400 Cuban exiles. On April 17, 1961 it staged an amphibious landing in the Bay of Pigs. The exiles were either captured or killed. The operation was a debacle. The United States then imposed a series of embargoes and trade sanctions against Cuba. By means overt and covert, it attempted to weaken and overthrow the Castro regime. In October 1962, Castro agreed to the deployment of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The "Cuban Missile Crisis" nearly led to nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union.
Cuba championed socialism and was friendly with the Soviet Union. For the United States, this was a thorn in its side. Tensions remained high throughout the Cold War. The US saw Cuba, located a mere 90 nautical miles off its border, as threat to national security. Its worries extended to other socialist Latin American countries. As a result, it resorted to every means at its disposal to blockade Cuba. For half a century, bilateral relations remained at rock bottom. The Cuban embargo left its people destitute. Economically it became utterly dependent upon the Soviet Union and Venezuela. Following the Soviet collapse, Cuba's economy lost its sponsor. Its socialist economy did not work. That much was obvious. Castro's health deteriorated. In 2006 he handed over power to his brother Raul. In 2008, Raul became President of the Council of Ministers and began to change course. He implemented a series of economic reforms and created an atmosphere of openness.
The United States established diplomatic relations with long hostile China and even Vietnam, with which it fought a war. Yet it continued to see Cuba as its sworn enemy. Clearly its policy warranted rethinking. Cuba paid a heavy price because of the embargo and blockade, in the economic livelihood of its people. But America, despite 53 years of effort, failed to score a victory. The victims of persistent US enmity, were the most vulnerable elements in the weaker countries. Had the United States broken the ice earlier, instead of clinging to its blockade, commercial exchanges could have benefited these people, and eased hostilities between the United States and Cuba.
Relations between friends are simple. Relations between enemies are equally simple. But to change an enemy into a friend requires strategy, intent, and finesse. Often politicians persist in hostility because they fear domestic pressure and challenges to their loyalty. It is easier to cling to one's existing position than to call for blood. It is much easier than championing peace and persuading one's opponents. Seeking peace requires greater courage than demanding war. But blindly adopting a hostile posture seldom narrows differences. It seldom facilitates long-term peace, and the nation eventually pays a price.
US policy towards Cuba has been frozen for half a century. The US has finally realized this was a blind alley. What it gained was far outweighed by what it lost -- the opportunity for reconciliation. By the same token, blind hostility and confrontation between the two sides of the Strait, will neither resolve differences nor facilitate communications. America and Cuba have put the past behind them. They can now work together to seek a mutually beneficial future. The two sides of the Taiwan Strait should be able to do the same. They should be able to exercise wisdom, see the Big Picture, and create new opportunities for peace and prosperity.
美古對立可謂冷戰的最後一塊僵持。1959年1月1日，費德爾．卡斯楚（Fidel Castro）推翻巴蒂斯塔（Fulgencio Batista）政權成為古巴領導人時，美國原本給予外交承認，但之後因為卡斯楚和蘇聯合作，美國在1961年1月3日悍然與古巴斷交，中情局（CIA）還策動1400名古巴流亡人士，於1961年4月17日在豬灣發動登陸侵略行動，結果不是被俘就是遭殲滅，難堪失敗收場。接著美國對古巴採取一連串禁運及貿易制裁，以或明或暗各種手段企圖弱化並推翻卡斯楚政權。1962年10月卡斯楚同意蘇聯在古巴境內部署飛彈，更釀成差點引發美俄核戰的「古巴飛彈危機」。